A combo picture made reissued on 07 April 2017 shows US President Donald J. Trump (L) at the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 09 February 2017, and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) in St. Petersburg, Russia, 03 April 2017.

DOJ departure shakes up investigation into Russia scandal

The Rachel Maddow Show, 4/20/17, 9:26 PM ET

Report shows high level Russian role in 2016 election meddling

Rachel Maddow relays a Reuters report that a Vladimir Putin-linked think tank drafted strategy papers for Russian interference in the 2016 US election. Donald Trump has failed to deliver on his promise to deliver a report on Russia’s 2016 cyber attack.
A key aspect of the scandal surrounding Russia and its efforts to elect Donald Trump is the hacking operation, which stole Democratic materials. But as Reuters reported, that wasn’t the only element of the broader espionage operation.
A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters.

They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election. U.S. intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, after the election.
Of particular interest is what changed in October 2016, as Americans learned of allegations surrounding Trump’s sexual misconduct – and the recording in which Trump boasted of assaulting women – when it appeared Hillary Clinton was likely to win. At that point, the Reuters report noted, the Kremlin switched gears, moving away from pro-Trump propaganda and instead trying to raise questions about the legitimacy of the U.S. election.

The point was to undermine Clinton’s presidency before it occurred, in the eyes of Americans and the world. What’s more, as Rachel noted on last night’s show, this wasn’t some low-level scheme: this was a government-run, intelligence operation, coordinated in part by the Kremlin`s in-house intelligence think tank, which Vladimir Putin has staffed with his former senior intelligence officers.

It was right around this time that Trump’s message mirrored the one the Kremlin’s think tank was pushing, with the Republican insisting that the American election process is “rigged” and unreliable.

It’s interesting that Moscow and Moscow’s preferred American candidate adopted similar messaging at similar times.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 4/20/17, 9:36 PM ET

Trump Russia national security investigator leaving DoJ

Matthew Miller, former Justice Department spokesperson, talks with Rachel Maddow about the announced departure of Mary McCord, who is in charge of the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible ties…
This may be of some interest to the DOJ official overseeing the FBI’s ongoing counter-intelligence investigation, but as Politico reported, it turns out, she’s leaving her post.
The Justice Department official who is leading the government’s investigation into potential collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government will step down next month.

Mary McCord, who has served as acting assistant attorney general for national security since October, informed DOJ employees this week that she will be leaving in mid-May, a spokesman confirmed to POLITICO.

DOJ’s National Security Division is leading the agency’s inquiry into possible links between Trump campaign aides and Moscow, as well as the Kremlin’s alleged digital meddling campaign during the 2016 presidential race.
This does not mean that the investigation is over, but Rachel spoke about this last night with Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesperson, who raised an under-appreciated point.

McCord, who’s now stepping down for reasons that haven’t been publicly disclosed, is a career Justice Department official, not a political appointee, who’s had a hands-on, day-to-day oversight role in the counter-intelligence investigation. Once she steps down, it’s possible, if not likely, that the DOJ will replace her with a political appointee, chosen by Team Trump, at least temporarily.

You see the problem: Team Trump is the subject of the investigation Mary McCord has helped lead. Indeed, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who’s been accused of lying under oath about his own communications with Russian officials, has recused himself from the investigation, but it may soon fall to him to choose McCord’s acting successor.

It’s why Matthew Miller said on the show last night, “I think it would be hugely troubling if [the Trump administration] put a political appointee, who had not been nominated, not been confirmed by the Senate into this job to investigate the president…. Eventually, I think it has to be a special counsel, but short of that, it has to be an acting career person until someone can be confirmed by the Senate.”

Watch this space.

Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, Justice Department, Russia and Scandals

DOJ departure shakes up investigation into Russia scandal